Ex-UN prosecutor De Silva, 2 others named to panel investigating Israeli flotilla raid

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ex-UN prosecutor De Silva probes Israeli boat raid

GENEVA — The U.N. Human Rights Council appointed former U.N. war crimes prosecutor Desmond de Silva and two other people on Friday to investigate Israel’s May 31 forcible boarding of a boat bringing aid to the Gaza Strip.

A statement said the British lawyer will be joined by Trinidadian judge Karl T. Hudson-Phillips and Malaysian women’s rights advocate Mary Shanthi Dairiam in examining whether Israel violated international law.

Israel has refused to cooperate with previous investigations ordered by the 47-nation council.

Eight Turks and one Turkish American were killed in the raid on a flotilla trying to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

Israel says its naval commandos were acting in self-defense after being attacked by pro-Palestinian activists, and an Israeli military report concluded last week that flawed intelligence-gathering and planning led to the deadly encounter.

The report praised the commandos who took part in the operation and said they were justified in opening fire.

“There is an investigation going on by Israel and it should be allowed to continue to do its job,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Andy David said.

He didn’t say if Israel would cooperate with the U.N. council’s investigation.

Two more blockade-busting ships are planning to sail to Gaza, this time from Lebanon, though precise dates have yet to be released.

In a statement Friday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called this an “uncalled-for provocation, like previous flotillas.” He said Israel would stop the ships if they refused to sail to a southern Israeli port. The cargo, he said, could be transferred from there to Gaza, except for weapons, ammunition or other items with military uses.

Barak said he held the Lebanese government responsible for making sure that the ships respect the blockade.

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